This is what the tomatoes on the deck looked like a couple of days ago as October weather slowly turned from mild to colder. We have not had the frost yet that will terminate the growing season but the tomato plants are all but dormant in the cool days and colder nights.
It seems time for a recap. Summer 2009 was not a good experience. The total yield was a meager 189 tomatoes (sounds like a lot but most were cherries or small varieties. The total weight from the plants was only 518.75 ounces. That doesn't count the many green tomatoes which are still on the vines, but it is the ones that ripened and are being consumed by the Lord and Lady of the manor.
The summary is: 1) the wick systems started off well but hit a brick wall composed of disease and sudden failure to draw nutrient. A variety of factors may be implicated and I'm not sure of the relative likelihood of any of them. 1.1) system may have become so nutrient imbalanced that it the plants could not continue to proper. I don't have any way to determine that. The total nutrient conductivity was in the 20-24 cf range which is fine. 1.2) lack of oxygenation ... I didn't oxygenate the wick systems. The early prospering however makes me think that may not be the reason. 1.3) a good fraction of the plants expressed relatively severe plant diseases, but some seemed rather resistant, so that is also a factor.
My rule of thumb for plants is about 10 pounds of tomatoes per plant and with only 32 pounds of tomatoes from quite a large number of plants this season was a disaster. The system that did best was the deck system which was just potting soil planters which were watered and occasionally fertilized with mostly Miracle Grow which one of my correspondents pointed out is not a hydroponic nutrient, but then these pot systems were not hydroponic. The second set of plants were just set into Virginia clay otherwise they did fairly well, but also had disease problems. The deck system has some disease problems as well.
On the whole this was a season that was severely limited by plant disease. In fact I've never seen some of the problems with tomato plants that I saw this year. I'm going to look through some of the sites which have pictures of various tomatoe blights and diseases and see if I can classify some of the problems I had.
I enjoy even the bad years because I learn a lot. What I mostly learned this year is to go back to NFT next year, even if the system is only a small one. These systems were low yielding and just as much trouble as the NFT systems have ever been.